Do The New Lay's Flavors Taste Anything Like The Dishes They're Named For?

The Four Finalists in Lay's Latest "Do Yourself A Flavor" Contest
The Four Finalists in Lay's Latest "Do Yourself A Flavor" Contest
Photo by Joanna O'Leary

In the past, Lay's "Do-Us-A-Flavor" contest has invited participants across the country to submit ideas for new flavors, four of which appear in supermarket shelves.  Consumers were then invited to vote for their favorite flavor, and its creator awarded $1 million. 

This time around, Lay's has skipped the consumer submission process and released its own  "Passport To Flavor" line-up in part to celebrate the Olympics; all bags contain codes that can be entered online to win trips and travel-related prizes. The newest flavors represent classic Indian, Greek, Brazilian and Chinese dishes and ingredients. Sometimes their Lay's limited edition flavors are great. Other times, the chips are a travesty. Here are the latest contenders ranked from worst to best—and whether they bear any resemblance to the international dish they're named after. 

4. Brazilian Picanha. It's no secret that Brazilians like cow flesh and picanha is name of a particularly choice cut located on the upper rear end that is traditionally seasoned with salt before grilling. Unfortunately, scant bovine flavor comes through in this chip. The taste profile is instead dominated by sodium. Lay's, where's the beef?

3. Chinese Szechuan Chicken. Known for its fiery cuisine, China's Szechuan province is the origin of some of China's most pungently spiced dishes.  Whether or not the Szechuan Chicken encountered at any given Chinese restaurant is as tongue-searing depends on that restaurant's fidelity to authentic preparation. Regardless,  it's reasonable to expect at least a moderate level of pepper and coriander in a Szechuan chicken-flavored potato chip. Cry 'foul' on the fowl: any such seasoning is completely undetectable.  

Clockwise from top left: Brazilian Picanha, Chinese Szechuan Chicken, Greek Tzatziki, Indian Tikka Masala
Clockwise from top left: Brazilian Picanha, Chinese Szechuan Chicken, Greek Tzatziki, Indian Tikka Masala
Photo by Joanna O'Leary

2. Indian Tikka Masala. Considered by some to be India's (well, really Britain's) national dish, tikka masala is an extremely complex collaboration of more than 20 ingredients used to produce its unique umami, creamy and herbal notes. Kudos to Lay's for pulling off a potato chip that almost manages to encapsulate this flavor, because there's just something missing, and oh gee, it's ghee. Next time, kettle-cook those potatoes in clarified butter.

1. Greek Tzatziki.  This chip gets a near-perfect score. The corrugated texture is a terrific platform for dill, garlic and just a hint of lemon-tweaked yogurt. It has been convincingly argued that this flavor is likely to be the most popular given its similarity to old-school crowd-pleaser Sour Cream & Chives. Hopefully that reason won't prompt Lay's not to crown it a winner for fear of creating redundancy in their product line. Greek Tzatziki Lay's is the wiser, more sophisticated cousin of Sour Cream & Chives, which is better relegated to backyard barbecues with relatives you don't like.  


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